Thought for the week, 3rd September; Pilgrim’s progress

I am writing this reflection on 31st August, the anniversary of the death of John Bunyan, the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress. I have a Victorian copy of this book, which somehow came from Mum’s side of the family on the Brown Clee. Needless to say, I’ve never read the book in its entirety, although when at school I used it for an essay on John Bunyan and I have dipped into it. The pilgrim is a man called Christian, who weighed down by his own sense of sin, embarks on a journey to the Celestial City which he believes will be the key to his salvation. In the journey he meets both friends and enemies, places of danger and encouragement. He barely makes it alive through the Slough of Despair; at Vanity Fair he rejects sensual pleasures. 

Bunyan was a Puritan, a Christian who took very seriously the issue of sin and personal salvation. It is a living tradition, although not one I personally find often speaks to me. However, I can recognise many of the emotions and experiences that Bunyan turned into his fictional places; I have been in the Slough of Despond, I have visited Vanity Fair and most fundamentally, I have struggled with faith and the apparent absence of God, which Bunyan equates to the result of sin. You do not have to buy into Bunyan’s theology to recognise what he is talking about; the personal spiritual desert where you cast around for any support. Bunyan’s message is fundamentally that this is part of life; our pilgrimage is to pass through it, in the knowledge that God is both our path and our destination.